USACE districts collaborate to provide essential services in Afghanistan
January 23, 2012
By Ms Joan F Kibler (USACE)
WINCHESTER, Va. -- Teamwork is a tenet of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as it fulfills its mission to provide engineering services to the nation in peace and war, and nowhere is that better exemplified than the collaboration that exists among the districts of the Transatlantic Division in delivering services that support construction in Afghanistan.
The Transatlantic Division tasked the Middle East District with awarding two nationwide service contracts -- for security support services and personal services -- to support the Afghanistan Engineer District-North in Kabul and the Afghanistan Engineer District-South on Kandahar Airfield.
"Both of these contracts provide essential support services that allow the two Afghanistan districts to deliver construction projects that are critical for helping to set the conditions for stability and security," said Roger L. Thomas, chief, MED Construction Operations Division.
"The districts need security and transportation services when their people go outside the wire to project sites, and they need the expertise of Afghan citizens to help carry out those construction missions," he said.
MED was tapped to provide this support because of its experience in awarding and managing service contracts.
Service contracts require a contractor to perform a task rather than to furnish an end item. They include a wide range of services such as operations and maintenance, life support, logistics, and advisory and assistance services. In fact, MED provided reach-back project management and contracting support for two operations-and-maintenance service contracts awarded in July 2010, totaling $800 million, for Afghan National Security Forces facilities. Those geographically-based contracts are managed by the Afghanistan districts.
Project managers in Construction Operations Division reached out to their counterparts in the forward-deployed districts to develop the contract requirements.
"These two service contract requirements are separate and are being worked concurrently," said Louis Martinez, supervisory program manager, Service Contract Section. "While our project delivery teams are different for both of these major programs, their goal is the same -- to develop contracts that best meet their needs yet provide the necessary flexibility as the operational picture changes over time in Afghanistan."
Martinez said that in addition to developing the contracting instruments, MED also sought to increase competition and broaden industry participation.
"Pre-proposal conferences provide the opportunity to outline the requirements to industry, seek their input, and increase our pool of contractors," Martinez said. "The Afghanistan districts participate in these events, providing the best information about the conditions on the ground. Those conditions may vary greatly within the areas served by the North District and the South District.
"This team approach, across a far-flung area, is the only way we can successfully award service contracts that will meet USACE needs at this critical juncture in Afghanistan," Martinez said.
The North District provides its services across the 24 northern provinces, while the South District's mission covers the 10 provinces in the southern half of the country.
USACE needs security services to perform its design and construction missions in Afghanistan. Whenever USACE personnel travel to project sites, they are accompanied by a personal security detachment. Security services are generally provided through a contractor or teams of contractor and military personnel.
"This contract helps Afghanistan Engineer District-North backfill the security needs experienced as a result of the Soldier redeployment surge," said Col. Christopher W. Martin, commander of the North District. "This allows our leadership to keep its focus on executing our construction mission aimed toward project completion."
The new contract provides air and ground assets to meet the districts' movement requirements throughout their operational areas, as well as armed security services and personal security detachments.
"This contract will give the districts in Afghanistan the security assets they need to perform the required quality inspections of construction throughout the country," said Betty Rogers, MED contracting officer. "An important improvement on the new contract is that each district can place orders on the contract through its administrative contracting officer. That wasn't the case on the previous contract where the districts shared the air assets. Each district now has maximum control of its security and movement assets to meet its missions."
Rogers said she has been impressed with the team's commitment throughout the acquisition. "All three districts worked together well on this project," she said. "Eric Hailston (North District) and Elliott Porter (South District) developed their districts' requirements in a manner that allowed for contractors to submit proposals on a firm-fixed-price contract. They also provided the internal liaison with their districts that resulted in approval of the documents and funding."
The one-year contract, with three one-year options periods, has a capacity of $120 million per year. Its maximum capacity is $480 million if all three option periods are exercised.
MED awarded the Reconstruction Security Support Services contract in October. When an offeror protested the award, MED took corrective action and expects to re-award the contract by March.
Along with the security services needed for travel, USACE needs the services provided by Afghan citizens on the construction sites. Hired under a personal services contract, Afghan engineering and technical staff work side by side with USACE personnel. In the most remote locations, they are the face of USACE, providing quality assurance for work performed by construction contractors.
Together, the three districts are working on a replacement contract. The existing contract, set to expire in June, has more than 400 Afghans at work throughout the country.
"The proposed contract will provide capacity to hire Afghan personnel to perform project and program management, contract administration, project engineering, quality assurance, real estate and other administrative functions," said Christine Florea, South District operations and maintenance project manager.
"Afghan engineers and quality assurance representatives are able to access remote sites that would otherwise be out of reach for USACE personnel," Florea said. "They also have knowledge of local dialects as well as construction means and methods. Coupled with their understanding of USACE operating procedures, which they learn on the job, they are truly the 'eyes and ears' of USACE for many of our projects in far-flung areas. USACE relies on their ability to access these construction sites and report back on progress, quality and safety."
During the pre-proposal conference in November, Willis Herweyer, MED project manager, emphasized the need for the services of Afghan personnel and encouraged contractors to provide input during the acquisition process.
"We formed a project delivery team to manage this acquisition, capitalizing on the experience and insight from our team members in Afghanistan who rely on these services," Herweyer said. Florea represents the South District, and Mace Langston and Dan Portillo represent the North District.
Florea said the acquisition is complex, requiring quality input from all participants. "The solicitation has varying factors, including the number of personnel, location of project sites, distance between the sites, and the local USACE office to which the Afghan personnel are assigned. Additionally, the ground conditions between the North and South Districts vary. Many factors must be considered as offerors evaluate the conditions and criteria to develop their proposals."
Florea said that because of the USACE approvals required for service contracts, the PDT has carefully managed the milestone schedule to advertise, review and award this contract in a timely manner. "There can be no gap in services between the current contract and the implementation of the new one," she said.
The next milestone is to release the Request for Proposal documents in February, according to Rogers.
"This is an exciting part of the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan," Rogers said. "USACE is building capacity by mentoring the Afghan engineers in USACE operating procedures, which are standardized throughout the world. These processes will support the Afghan engineering and construction community long after we are gone."
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